Advertising: eu proposes end to branded cigarettes

LONDON ( ) The European Union is proposing a full scale ban on branded cigarettes, forcing tobacco companies across the continent to sell their products in generic, plain packaging.

Credit AP Under the new rules, packs would carry nothing more than a health warning and the name of the brand, both in a standardized format with a specified typeface.

Since cigarette advertising was outlawed across Europe in 2003, packaging known as «the silent salesman» has been the only way for cigarette manufacturers to keep their brands in the spotlight.

Opponents of the move have until Dec. 15 to make their case heard, with a decision expected in February. Even if the EU decides in favor of plain packaging, it could take another five years before the law comes into effect especially if the tobacco companies carry out their threat to make a legal challenge against the ruling.

Andrew Lansley, the U.K. secretary of state for public health, believes that plain packs would de glamorize the habit and stop young people from taking up smoking. But the Tobacco Manufacturers Association said, «We do not believe any plans for plain packaging are based on sound public policy, nor any compelling evidence.»

The International Advertising Association has written to the EU to argue against the prohibition of on pack cigarette branding. Erich Buxbaum, VP and area director for Europe, said, «All brands are registered trademarks. This could lead into a vast legal process companies will sue the EC. They pay a lot of money every year for their trademarks.»

Imperial Tobacco, manufacturer of cigarette brands including Davidoff, JPS, Gitanes and Gauloises Blondes, called plain packs «unnecessary, unreasonable and unjustified.» In a statement the company said, «Governments that consider introducing plain packaging risk breaching a range of legal and treaty obligations relating to intellectual property rights, international trade and European Union law.»

Anne Edwards, director external communications, Philip Morris International, said, «To date every country that has considered plain packaging has rejected it due to lack of evidence and associated intellectual property issues. Even in Australia … the government’s own intellectual property body, IP Australia, recently advised … that plain packaging ‘may not be consistent with Australia’s intellectual property treaty obligations’ and ‘would make it easier for counterfeit goods to be produced and would make it difficult to readily identify these counterfeit goods.'»

The counterfeit issue was also raised by Mr. Buxbaum, who claimed that 10% of all trade in Europe is in counterfeit goods. Illicit cigarettes, he said, deny significant revenues to European governments, most of which claim 50% of the sale price in tax, and according to the IAA letter «come with no guarantee about the ingredients and product safety.»

However, Action on Smoking and Health, a campaigning public health charity in the U.K., said it has heard all these arguments before.

Martin Dockrell, the organization’s director of research and policy, said, «The tobacco companies used the same arguments against the tobacco advertising ban. They still retain their rights over their logos but it doesn’t mean they can use them however they like. They can’t use them on billboards and soon they won’t be able to use them on packaging.»

Mr. Dockrell said that unbranded packs would not lead to an increase in smuggling. He argued that branded and unbranded packs are equally easy for counterfeiters to replicate.

As well as the introduction of unbranded packaging, the EU is also considering a ban on in store cigarette displays and on cigarette vending machines.

The IAA has chosen to concentrate its efforts on a protest against the packaging ban. Mr. Buxbaum said, «I don’t want to become a spokesman for the tobacco industry. I am concentrating on the packaging issue because plain packaging would kill branding.» The IAA has no tobacco companies as members in Europe, although it does have a couple in the U.S.

Independent of the EU, the English parliament voted last year in favor of a ban on the display of tobacco products in shops in England. Larger shops will have to comply by 2011, while smaller shops will have until 2013. However, a change of government in May means that the new legislation is not guaranteed to go ahead.

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Ad watchdog warns e-cigarette brands over ‘unclear’ ads

The Advertising Standards Authority adjudications upheld a number of complaints against individual brands, which include Sky Cigs, 5 Colors, Ten Motives and E Lites, as it seeks to clarify the rules around advertising e cigarettes.

The ads came under fire from the ASA for not making it clear what the commercials were promoting. In each of the instances, the brands and Clearcast had misinterpreted the BCAP Code as prohibiting reference to the terms e cigarette.

A TV ad for 5 Colors e cigarettes stated, «Five Colors. What s your flavour?» and showed adults jumping in the air, while fruits including strawberries and apples exploded in the background. On screen text included a URL and telephone number.

Five viewers complained the ad was misleading because it encouraged viewers to visit the website and did not make clear the characteristics of the product. Three viewers complained that the ad was irresponsible because it encouraged people to smoke, and two complainants argued that the ad did not make it clear the product was unsuitable for under 18 year olds.

The ASA upheld two of the complaints. It ruled that the ad should have made it clear that an e cigarette was the product being advertised, that it did not contain nicotine and that it was not available to under 18s.

E cigarette brand Ten Motives ran a TV ad written from the perspective of a man telling viewers about the things that mattered to him most, including loved ones. Complaints included claims that the ad did not make it clear what the product being advertised was and that it contained nicotine.

The ASA ruled that the ad should not appear in its current form again and should instead make clear the nature of the product and that it contained nicotine.

The other brands that were reprimanded by the ASA were Zandera s E Lites, which used a character called ‘Dave’, who misses the scene of a baby dancing to ‘Gangnam Style’ because he was outside having a cigarette (see below).

Zandera was told by the ASA not to run the TV ad, and a radio ad in their current form and that the ads should make it clear whether or not E Lites contain nicotine or not.

Finally, a TV ad for Sky Cigs showed young adults taking part in day to day activities. The ASA ruled that that ad should be remade to clearly identify the type of product it was promoting and that it should make it clear that Sky Cigs contained nicotine.